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Many of us are increasingly wary of venturing forth into the sun due to the risk of skin cancer. It is, however, important for our health to have some exposure – which can be done responsibly with during and after-sun skin care.
We are all rather in a quandary when it comes to sun exposure and the threat of skin cancer. Indeed, while the sun, perhaps largely due to a depleted ozone layer, is suspected to be the cause of a significant rise in diagnosed skin cancer cases – 65% from 1987 to 2000 – we do need a certain amount of it for various physical and mental health benefits.
HEALTH BENEFITSAccording to Dr Janey Little, who specialises in a natural treatment approach for cancer, we must not shirk the sun as inadequate exposure to it can cause a variety of ills. Dr Little urges us to embrace some rays for the following health benefits:1■ The synthesis of vitamin D: A growing body of research indicates that vitamin D prevents certain cancers in addition to its role in building strong teeth and bones■ Stimulation of the immune system■ Production of mood-enhancing hormones■ The control of germs, moulds, mites■ The reduction of raised blood pressure, cholesterol and high blood glucose■ Improved transportation of oxygen around the body.
HOW TO BE SUN SMARTThe wisest course of action is to have regular but controlled sun exposure in such a way as to avoid burning.
When to be in the sunAccording to the Cancer Council of Australia, ‘UV radiation levels vary depending on location, time of year, time of day, cloud coverage and the environment . . . Regular incidental exposure to the sun during the summer is enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.’2 The Council suggests spending time outside at midday in the autumn and winter.2
Choosing the right sunscreenIt is important to apply a sunscreen particularly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is high in the sky and UV rays pose a greater threat. As with any body product, choose sunscreens and after sun products without nano-particles, chemicals and other nasties. (Watch out for our beauty article in our upcoming February issue.) According to Dr Little, studies show that over 60% of sunscreens are not protecting us from the harmful UVA rays which are considered the most dangerous in promoting skin damage, ageing and skin cancers. In addition to this, the most widely used sunscreens contain toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and enter the bloodstream causing hormonal upset.1
(Note: for a list of chemicals to AVOID in your sunscreen, as well as those ingredients that are SAFE, see www.drjaney.com for more complete details.) It is therefore important to check all labels to make sure that there are no harmful chemicals.
You can also prepare your skin for sun exposure from the inside. Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the skin from the inside, acting like an internal sunscreen! 3
AFTER-SUN CAREShould you end up with sunburn, be sure to treat it with optimum skin hydration. This includes stopping outside sport activities that cause loss of water through sweating, drinking extra water, consuming water-rich foods and especially paying attention to keeping the skin moisturised from the outside.
There are lovely moisturising lotions, sprays and oils on the market today that replenish the skin’s natural oils and penetrate deeply into the skin. Great after-sun remedies include sprays that can be easily applied, especially to a child with sore, burnt skin. Choose oils known for feeding the skin such as argan, coconut, jojoba, monoi, sesame and grapeseed.
Argan oilArgan oil is well known for its anti-ageing benefits. It is a rich source of omega-6 and omega-9, and vitamins A and E. To benefit from the deeply nourishing effects of this oil all you need is a couple of drops applied to the face in a circular motion. A little does go a long way.4
Coconut oilCoconut oil is an exotically fragrant moisturiser for the whole body. It has antimicrobial benefits and makes for a wonderful chemical-free cleanser, removing make up and penetrating deep into the skin to improve lipid content.4
Jojoba oilJojoba oil, rich in vitamins E and B, zinc, copper, silicon, iodine and chromium, is ideal for feeding the skin. This lightweight oil is easily absorbed and does a great job of moisturising the whole body, including the hair which may be dry after time spent in the sun, swimming pools and the sea.4
Sesame oilAs a powerful antioxidant rich in vitamin E, sesame oil fights free radicals and oxidation that accompany sun damage. Sesame oil can be applied to the entire body. In addition to vitamin E, this oil contains another antioxidant, sesamol, that counteracts the signs of ageing.4
Monoi oilMonoi oil helps protect both the skin and hair against the drying effects of the sun. It is ideal for skin hydration and decreases healing time from sunburn. It is a combination of coconut oil and the essence of Tahitian Gardenias.5
Grapeseed oilGrapeseed oil is a natural source of vitamins A, C and E and omega-3 and -6. It is an effective complete body moisturiser with excellent antioxidant and anti-ageing benefits. It reduces free radical damage caused by the sun and leaves the skin feeling toned.
NATURAL SUNBURN REMEDIES6If you get the brunt of the sun really bad, try the following natural home remedies to take away the sting.Compresses soaked in cold water and/or witch hazel will bring relief especially if you sit in front of a cool fan. Foods such as oat compresses, corn starch paste, and yoghurt applied directly to sunburnt skin can have a healing effect. Use tea bags soaked in cool water if your eyelids are sunburnt.Cools baths, with no soap, can be used as an alternative to compresses. Either sprinkle baking soda generously into the water or add one cup of white or apple cider vinegar to the bath.
Clay is a highly effective natural treatment for sunburn as it offers relief from pain, reduced peeling and risk of infection as well as a reduced healing period. The clay can be applied as a poultice or added to your bath water. In some cases it can be drunk. Examples of therapeutic clays include bentonite, illite and montmorillonite clays.
References1. Little J. Skin cancer and the sun – revealing the myths. Natural Medicine. December 2016 (138):52-54.2. Cancer Council Australia. Vitamin D. 29 November 2016. Available from: http://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/vitamin-d/3. Little J. Natural sun protection. Natural Solutions to Cancer. Available from: http://www.drjaney.com/c45/Natural-Sun-Protection.aspx4. Pater R. On melanoma, skin cancer and skin health. Available from: https://skinvision.com/en/articles/5-oils-that-will-improve-skin-health5. Mary D. The many benefits of monoi oil for healthy hair and skin. Naturally Curly. Available from: http://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/ingredients/what-is-monoi-oil/6. The Editors of Prevention. Beauty sun protection. Prevention. Available from: http://www.prevention.com/beauty/natural-sunburn-cures
NATASHA BOLOGNESI, BA (HONS); MPHIL (Journ)
After graduating with a BA Honours degree from the University of Cape Town, she embarked on a proofreading and writing career before living in Italy for six years. On her return, Natasha completed her Master’s degree in Journalism at Stellenbosch University and worked as a freelance health writer up until the end of 2012 when she joined the editorial team at Natural Medicine.
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